My Sex Positive Story: Dr Laurie Mintz

In this second instalment of our sex positive journey series we hear from Becoming Cliterate author Dr Laurie Mintz.

Becoming Cliterate author Dr Laurie Mintz

Dr. Laurie Mintz is a feminist author, therapist, professor, and speaker whose life’s work has been committed to helping people live more authentic, meaningful, joyful—and sexually satisfying—lives through the art and science of psychology. She chatted to The Good Bits about her sex positive life. 

TBG: How is it you came to be an advocate for the female orgasm?

LM: I’ve been a licensed psychologist seeing clients since 1990. I’ve always been comfortable with the topic, but I never received any training on it in grad school and they still don’t do training well on sexual issues.

So, because of my comfort with the subject, I started asking my clients about their concerns.

I’d say a good 85-90% of the time I asked a client if they had a sexual concern, they’d say yes; but they wouldn’t have brought it up if I hadn’t asked.

I realized like there was definitely a need for more sex being discussed in the therapy space.

I lost my own sex drive after the birth of my second daughter.  I talk about this in my first book.

I knew it was important and I did research, asking, how can I fix this myself? And there was nothing that spoke to me. I started talking to my friends and they all agreed, “me too”.  Even my doctor said “yeah, me too. If you find anything, let me know.”

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So, I dug into all the literature and started helping people, including myself. And then I thought, Oh, I need to write this in a book. And then one thing spiraled into the next.

I got an opportunity to teach the psych of human sexuality at the University of Florida, and I learned even more. The orgasm gap really caught my attention because these students in my class were really struggling with it. I started teaching about the clitoris and female orgasm and became aware that a whole body of knowledge has been lost to this generation of young women, you know?

TGB: So when you say a body of knowledge has been lost, what do you think has happened? 

LM: I am not anti-porn or anti-erotica, but I think the combination of pornography without sex ed is what’s happened to this generation.

I talked to my mother before she passed away and she was in her eighties, and she said that they didn’t have any sex ed, so they talked to each other and figured it out, and then my generation, there was all kinds of resources.

This generation, they pretty much get their sex ed from porn or mainstream movies. And it’s mainly  fake, a lot of it’s not accurate, and they don’t have any actual sex ed to correct them.

I wrote one blog where I said this was the most misinformed generation about sex ever.

It went viral and it wasn’t viral bad. These young people were agreeing with me.

The sexual revolution told us it’s okay to have intercourse before marriage, but it did nothing to level the playing field in terms of how good those encounters were. I think there’s a lot of movements that have gone backwards in the last 10, 15 years.

TGB: So, you’ve always been comfortable talking about sex?

LM: I think it’s always been the case and I have to credit my mother for that really.

She was like way ahead of her time in terms of being sex positive when I was growing up.. . I think I was raised in an unusually accepting sex positive home.

TGB: What advice do you have for parenting in a sex positive way? 

LM: Talk to your kids! Not just once when it’s too late.

Talk to them like you would about anything else.

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I remember I would talk to my kids about whatever. You know, read them books. And I remember a friend of mine who was a child psychologist said if you don’t talk about this it gives the message that this is not something we talk about and it begins to instil shame.

Shame around sex is so prevalent. On Instagram, I follow ‘Sex-positive Families’ and I used that kind of message — talk to your kids and give them autonomy. Don’t shame their bodies.  Don’t shame masturbation.  Educate them and use the right terms.

TGB: How would you reflect on your parenting when it came to sex?

LM: I’m human, so I think I made mistakes just like any other parent, but they were raised to be pretty sex positive.

Even with what I do I made mistakes. I mean, I studied eating disorders and I made mistakes around their food choices. I studied sex and I made mistakes around responding to their sexuality. I’m human. But I do think the overall message that I gave them was this is a fun, enjoyable part of life. And it’s okay.

I remember when my daughter was a teen and she had a serious boyfriend and she came to me and she said that they were going to have sex. She asked if I would take her to the doctor for birth control.  I was like, yeah, of course!

I took her to the doctor, but then gave her the book I Love Female Orgasm. I said you don’t know what you’re doing and neither does your boyfriend.

He’s going to think that all he needs to do is put his penis in your vagina and it’s going to work for you and I’m here to tell you it’s not. So you need to learn about your body and you need to advocate for your own pleasure.

Here’s a book. Let me know if you have any questions. And I remember I would pass it by her room and I hear her and her friends reading excerpts.

TGB: Do you like the phrase sex positive? Do you think it’s a good phrase? 

LM: I think the phrase sex positive is good because it points out that we’re not that way automatically as a culture.  We may be sexualized, but we’re pretty sex negative.

I think sex positivity is an important word and an important concept.

TGB: And what does a a utopian sex positivity look like?

LM: I think the utopia is in the Netherlands.  I was supposed to travel there right before COVID hit, and observe their sex ed and meet with a bunch of people.

So I’ve not been able to confirm the fact that I think that’s utopia, but I think it comes as close as any country.

They teach sex ed from kindergarten through to high school in increasingly appropriate ways. They talk about pleasure. They talk about the clitoris.

I haven’t been able to determine if they include porn literacy.

Parents there are very sex positive. There’s a book called Not Under My Roof that documents the experience of a mother. I’ve talked to people from there and parents are like “of course, you’re going to sleep with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you know, both genders, you know, and just do it in our house, and then have breakfast with us the next day.”

People don’t have to feel ashamed. It’s utopia for me  when this is considered just as much a part of childhood and human development as other things; like social skills, intelligence, morals, and driver’s ed. When you start teaching people early because it’s going to be something they’re going to do for life.

TGB: Tell me what you mean by porn literacy. Is there anyone or anywhere doing that particularly well in your view? 

LM: I don’t think so. Not in our educational system.

We sit with kids when they watch Superman, right? And we say, don’t jump off that tall building. It’s what we need to do with kids in porn. They’re going to watch it. We need to say these are actors and actresses in general, and it’s not how it is in real life.

And it’s entertainment. It’s not education or role modeling.

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It’s as simple as that. It’s as simple as that sex ed, that includes scientifically accurate rather than value based information. That includes pleasure. I mean, that includes all those things about birth control, STI is all those things to keep it safe, but also like why don’t we even tell kids that sex is pleasurable?

We don’t, we tell them don’t do it and it’s dangerous and you’ll get sick. Like we don’t tell them the full truth.

I haven’t done a ton of research, so I can’t really speak cross-culturally, I have talked to different people in different countries, but I think the US is terrible. A very small number of States require sex ed to be medically accurate, which means we can tell kids value-based lies.

I had a student a few years ago who was told in her sex ed that if she had intercourse before marriage, her vagina would mold to the shape of her partner’s penis and her future husband would never be happy.

Or if you have sex before you get married, you’ll get an STI and die. People are told literal lies. It’s like we’re telling people that two plus two equals five.

It’s also very non affirming and non-inclusive of lesbian,gay and trans students.

TGB: What advice would you have for someone who is wondering if they’re ‘normal’?

LM: I hate that word.  Whatever turns you on and as long as it’s consensual. You’re fine. Let’s get rid of the normal word and just kind of go to whatever works for you as long as no one’s getting hurt and it’s consensual!

Let go of the shame and let go of the anxiety about how you compare to others and just embrace and enjoy your own sexuality.

We’d highly recommend you sign up to Dr Mintz’s newsletter and watch her TedTalk to find out more about her learnings and teachings.  You can also find excerpts from her books Becoming Cliterate and A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex on The Good Bits.